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Getting mortuary waste message across in Gisborne

16 Mar 2016

Getting mortuary waste message across in Gisborne

A few cheeky comments from Wastewater Technical Advisory Group member Ray Farmer at last year’s Land Treatment Collective conference in Wanaka were seemingly all it took for Gisborne to become host this year.

The comments also led to Mr Farmer presenting a conference paper – his first – on the subject of mortuary waste.

Mr Farmer, who has an iwi environmental management degree, held his own at the 2015 conference. He told a “gang” of wastewater experts that surrounded him at the conference that “if they wanted to do any good, they should come to Gisborne”.

“Lo and behold, I was informed by the organisers last year that the conference was coming here.

“Removing mortuary waste from the wastewater reticulation system is a must. Disposing body fluids, water used to wash corpses and embalming preservatives into the bay is culturally offensive.

“We hope to provide a positive solution to a very complex problem.”

Gisborne District Council has begun developing a bylaw to regulate, manage and remove mortuary wastewater from funeral homes and hospitals from the reticulation system to its own land-based system. One option is a separate wetland or an above-ground treatment method, known as a Wisconsin mound.

“If this goes ahead, Gisborne could be the first in the world to develop a mortuary fluid-specific wetlands.”

Council is currently trialing a small scale wetlands wastewater treatment project at the wastewater treatment plant in the industrial subdivision.